Hot Havana Nights

Create a Latin-inspired fiesta for friends

You never know when or where inspiration will hit. On a recent jaunt to Miami, I fell in love with Little Havana, which is situated a few blocks from the clear blue waters of the Atlantic. It’s a quaint street strung with white lights, but the experiences and flavors are unabashedly colorful. I couldn’t wait to re-create the experience when I returned home. So I invited the girls over for my own version of Havana Nights … in my Kirkland home!

Get the look
I took the color cues straight from the historic art deco buildings on Miami’s Ocean Drive. Layered blue and white dishware is softened with a mix of sky, cantina stripes, and coral napkins. Mounds of fresh citrus and succulents are an easy way to dress the space for the party. Rose gold flatware adds an extra-special touch.

20160310_Invite-MonicaHart-0944Ten-Step Macramé

This macramé hanging plant holder is a ’70s throwback, and it’s so simple to make. It will holds a 4-inch pot.


  • Four 9-foot strands of macrame cord
  • Thin 8-in long leather strap


  1. On a tabletop, fold the four lengths of cord in half.
  2. Measure 2 1/2 inches from the top and tie all eight pieces of cord into one knot, creating a top loop.
  3. Measure down approximately 20 inches, and working left to right, knot the eight adjacent strings into four pairs.
  4. Line up your pairs and measure down 2 1/2 inches. Grab an interior cord from each adjacent pair, and knot those together. (You will be left with a cord on each end).
  5. Knot the last two cord together.
  6. Measure down 3 inches, and repeat the above process creating a third row of small knots.
  7. Measure down 2 inches, and knot all of the 8 cord together in a large knot just as you did at the top.
  8. Trim the ends to equal lengths and you can create a decorative knot in each of the eight strands.
  9. Thread the thin leather strap through the top loop to create a hanger.
  10. Pop in your pot and fill with greenery, a succulent, or fresh flowers and hang.

20160310_Invite-MonicaHart-0087Tomato Cumin Bisque

  • 30 small cocktail tomatoes, tops scored in quarters, and placed on a baking sheet
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 stems of oregano, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 32 ounces organic vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons of sun-dried tomato paste
  • 1 cups half-and-half
  • 3 tablespoons cognac
  • Salt and pepper

1. Combine the chopped shallots, garlic, and oregano. Stuff each tomato with a little of the mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Roast in a 375-degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the tomatoes wilt and ooze.

2. Meanwhile, simmer vegetable broth, toasted cumin seeds, cinnamon, cognac, and tomato paste in a soup pan on the stove for 10 minutes. Add the roasted tomatoes and scrape the baking pan juices into the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat and cool a bit. Then add the half-and-half to the pan. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pan. Place the soup pot back on low heat. Add a bit more broth for desired consistency. If desired, pipe on creme fraiche, and add a sprig of mint before serving.

20160310_Invite-MonicaHart-0186Fresh Guacamole

This is best made and served tableside in an earthy mortar as guests arrive! Purchase good, fresh salsa to fold into the recipe to save time.

  • 3 ripe avocados, pitted
  • 1 lime, zest and juiced
  • 1 handful of chopped grape tomatoes
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of chopped cilantro
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mash up the ingredients (or skip the tomatoes and spices and fold salsa into smashed avocados instead) and serve with chips.

Slow-Roasted Pulled Pork in Tortilla Cups

This pork is so tasty and tender that it literally falls apart when done. I love serving it in these pretty tortilla cups topped with salsa.

  • 3½ pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small orange, zest and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Three garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup of fresh mint, chopped

20160310_Invite-MonicaHart-00631. Place the pork in an oven-safe pan with a tight lid. Combine the rest of the ingredients into a paste, and coat the pork. Drizzle with olive oil.

2. Cook at 300 degrees with lid on for two hours. Turn pork over carefully, and cook for one more hour with the lid on and then remove the lid and cook for 30 more minutes. Pull pork apart with two forks and toss with your favorite barbecue sauce, homemade or store-bought.

3. Make crispy cups. Brush medium-sized flour tortillas lightly with water and microwave for 15 seconds. It will make them more pliable. Form tortillas into cups by placing each into a large muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they harden and become golden brown. Cool. Place the prepared pulled pork into the cups and top with salsa and cilantro.

Guava Cream Cheese Dip

  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup guava jam
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the shallot and garlic until softened; cool. Place all of the ingredients in a bowl. Fold until just combined. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro. Serve with plantain chips.

20160310_Invite-MonicaHart-0127Guava and Cream Cheese Hand Pies

These are heavenly little hand pies. I love the combo of guava, cream cheese, cinnamon and orange zest. Make the dough a day ahead of time if you want!

The Dough

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter chilled, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ to ½ cup ice water

Place all ingredients (except the water) in a food processor and pulse until just combined. With the machine running, add the water, a little at a time, until the dough forms into a ball. Divide in half, pat into two small disks. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

The Filling

  • ½ cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup guava jam
  • Zest of half an orange
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs yolks, beaten
  • ½ cup sugar

1. Roll out one of the dough disks onto a floured surface. Cut into 4-by-4-inch squares. Reroll the scraps until you get eight squares from each disk.

2. Place a dollop of the filling on one corner of the dough leaving a ½-inch border on two sides. Fold into a triangle. Brush tops with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.

3. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 5 minutes then turn down the heat to 350 for 10 to 12 additional minutes. The crust should be golden and the filling will bubble and begin to ooze slightly. Makes eight pies.

20160310_Invite-MonicaHart-0143Mini Mojito Piñata Popsicles

Add a playful note to your fiesta with these mini mojito Popsicle piñatas!

  • Draw a popsicle template on a piece cardboard, cut it out and trace – two per mini piñata.
  • Cut an inch-wide cardboard strip to cover all the way around the exterior of the popsicle, leaving the bottom open.
  • Using two-sided tape, tape the cardboard strip around one of the popsicle cutouts. Tape down the popsicle stick inside the piñata. Tape the two popsicle cutouts together. Fill with candy. Cut a strip of cardboard to cover the bottom openingand tape it onto the popsicle.
  • Cut two strips of the green crepe paper in half length wise. Make each strip long enough to wrap around the popsicle once.
  • Feather cut the along the strip to create the ruffle of the piñata. Starting from the bottom of the popsicle, Layer on two rows of green crepe paper to create the minty section.
  • Adhere with two-sided tape. Repeat the process with the yellow crepe paper working your way to the top of the popsicle form.

20160310_Invite-MonicaHart-0083Takeaway Mojito Kits

Give your guests a mojito-making kit so they can remember the party on another warm night! I used ceramic berry baskets to hold pots of fresh mint, rum minis and limes.

Mint Basil Mojito

Place four fresh mint leaves and four basil leaves into a tall mojito glass. Squeeze the juice of a small lime over the herbs. Add ¾ shot of minty simple syrup (made with equal parts sugar and water and a handful of mint simmered, strained, and chilled). Muddle the mixture well. Add ice, 1½ ounces of white rum and top off with club soda. Garnish with a sprig of fragrant mint and slice of lime. For an added touch, I ordered sugar cane from Uwajimaya. Simply peel the stalk and cut to create fun (sweet) stir sticks!

Credits: Mandarin orange throw, tablescape pieces, dishware, glassware, linens, white hurricane, and mojito kit ceramic containers all from Crate and Barrel, The Bellevue Collection. Craft supplies from Ben Franklin Crafts and Frames, Redmond. Vintage cigar boxes from Haystack Home, Kirkland. Fresh mint from Wells Medina Nursery, Medina. Plantain chips from Metropolitan Market, Kirkland. Hair styling by SEVEN the Salon, senior stylist Chu.

is a 425 contributor.
Find Out First
Learn about Eastside food,
fashion, home design, and more.
no thanks

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

Receive exclusive subscriber content and access to special contests, discounts, and giveaways!